Australia and Indonesia shook hands and made up last week, with the launch of a joint maritime enforcement training capability at the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation (JCLEC).
It is the first thaw after two years of tensions arising from Australia’s unilateral policy of towing back boatloads of migrants, revelations of spying on the former Indonesian president, allegations of bribing crew to turn back boats, and Indonesia’s execution of Australian drug dealers.
At the high point in late 2013 joint security operations were suspended. Jakarta considered exercising its rights as an archipelagic state and closing its sea lanes.
More recently both countries appear to have united in common fear of Islamic terrorism. A recent Pew Research Center survey measuring perceptions of international challenges listed both Australia and Indonesia naming Islamic extremism their top concern.
A spokesperson for Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection told IHS Maritime the Australian Border Force (ABF) was committed to working with its Indonesian counterparts to combat maritime security threats.
Maritime Border Command was undertaking co-ordinated security patrols with the Indonesian Coast Guard, known as Operation Shearwater, he said.
The patrols were on the hunt for illegal fishers, people smugglers, polluters, and other transnational criminals, who now have no safe haven on either side of the Australian and Indonesian maritime borders, he said.
According to information provided to IHS Maritime there has been a 16-month gap in joint patrols between October 2013 and February 2015.
Then on 25 August, ABF commissioner Roman Quaedvlieg announced the joint training initiative in Jakarta managed jointly by the Indonesian National Police and Australian Federal Police.
“The establishment of this capability within the JCLEC is another sign of the strong co-operation between our two nations to deliver maritime security in our region,” Quaedvlieg said in a release.
Both nations expect to formalise the initiative later this year in a civil maritime enforcement and security partnership. It aims to boost existing bilateral arrangements and joint maritime security initiatives and co-operation.
Australia is also working to build closer ties with the Indonesian Coast Guard to strengthen co-ordinated maritime patrols and port visits, as well as regional and fisheries vessel search training.
Indonesia’s Global Maritime Fulcrum doctrine was highlighted in Singapore recently. Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries Susi Pudjiastuti, who gave an address on 27 August, released data showing the fisheries sector outpacing national growth, boasting 8.64% compared with the national GDP of 4.7%.
Indonesia has carried out a crackdown on illegal fishing, by improving surveillance and closer working ties with the police and navy.
The country marked its National Independence Day on 17 August by sinking 34 illegal fishing vessels. A further 41 vessels, including the 300 gt Chinese vessel Gui Xei Yu 12661, were sunk in May.
Indonesia estimated illegal fishing was costing it around IDR300 trillion (USD21.2 billion) a year.